The derelict Lindy Boggs Medical Center in Mid-City, an eyesore and potential health hazard since it was shuttered in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, is expected to soon get new life as an elderly-care facility, according to the proposed developers of the site.
Developer Joe Jaeger's firm MCC Real Estate and St. Margaret's Daughters, operators of the St. Margaret's at Mercy nursing home next door to the former hospital, said they have firmed up plans to develop the site into a residential complex for the elderly.
It will include independent living spaces, nursing home rooms, assisted-living and memory-care facilities, according to Peter Aamodt, MCC's head of development
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"We've done the market research that shows there is a need. Now, we're in the preliminary design phase, and we'll work with the operator to determine how many rooms will be needed for each category of use," Aamodt said.
He said there is a short list of three potential operators for the new facility, from which the developers hope to select one by the end of the summer.
The red-brick building at North Jefferson Davis Parkway and Bienville Street formerly known as Mercy Hospital has remained unrehabilitated since being inundated following the levee breaches after Katrina.
For over a decade it has stood as a fetid monument to the storm's destruction even as rapid redevelopment, much of it driven by the nearby Lafitte Greenway, has lifted up the neighborhood around it.
With movement started on the former 187-bed acute care hospital, celebrity property developer Sidney Torres IV said Tuesday he is also moving ahead with a project next door. He plans to turn the neighboring seven acres he owns into what he called a Lafitte Greenway "lifestyle center," or an open-air mall with food shops and restaurants, a theater, and private residences overlooking nearby Bayou St. John.
The developers of the former hospital have yet to work out the finances, which will depend to a large degree on the tax incentives that can be secured.
They plan to use state historic rehabilitation tax credits, a program that is set to expire at the end of 2021 unless the Legislature extends it. That puts the owners on the clock to finalize their plans and get city approval as soon as possible.
Aamodt said that if all goes according to plan, the project should be completed in 2021.
St. Margaret's Daughters bought the abandoned hospital site in 2010 for $4.2 million and spent $37 million transforming the 100,000-square-foot office buildings on the North Carrollton Avenue side into a nursing home. However, plans to renovate the hospital and reopen it as a cardiovascular unit fell through when LSU pulled out.
Instead, LSU focused on its plans for a medical district between Canal Street and Tulane Avenue, closer to downtown and anchored by the new University Medical Center.
The news that owners are finally moving ahead with a project at the Lindy Boggs site was welcomed by neighbors who have been fed up with the lack of progress over many years.
Chris Blum, vice president of the Mid-City Neighborhood Organization, said residents have been particularly worried about the resources that the blighted site has sucked up because trash builds up there and clogs nearby water culverts. The site was also attracting squatters, he said.
"We’ve seen so much development going on in this specific area, especially in the last two years, and to see nothing going on here has been frustrating," Blum said.
The building's below-ground parking area also has been subject to frequent flooding, requiring the owners to bring in special pumps to keep the stagnant water from becoming a health hazard.
The blighted hospital site has stood out more and more as the surrounding area, which runs from the North Carrollton Avenue shopping center to Jefferson Davis Parkway, has been redeveloped.
For residents of Mid-City, the cleanup that began recently at the long-vacant Lindy Boggs Medical Center can't happen fast enough.
Two condominium complexes have sprouted nearby. The St. Margaret facility is operating, and more recently, the Wrong Iron on the Greenway bar and restaurant has opened on land owned by Torres, who also owns half the business.
"Wrong Iron has been way more successful than I thought it would be, and it really opened my eyes that people want to be outside and eat outside, so it made me rethink what I want to do" with the seven acres next to the hospital site, Torres said.